It was a gorgeous morning. Absolutely sparkling. I awoke at six o’clock and bounded down the stairs like I weighed five pounds. After getting the coffee brewing, emptying the dishwasher and a performing a few other mundane morning rituals, I faxed in my official “Employee Request for Time Off” sheet, filling in the normal pertinent information like name, date, and pay option in the usual way, but under the “reason” heading, I truthfully and boldly wrote in the word that gets my heart pumping every time: BOATING!
Okay. I admit it. I am a boating junkie. Incurable. A hopeless case. A candidate for intervention. Enabled by an understanding employer and the nicest wife in the whole world. She floated down the stairs not long after I did, obviously as excited as I am about today: the first boat ride of the season. This is the day we cruise Ginger Lee, our much-loved motor vessel, from her winter home at the Moby Dick Marina in Fairhaven, to her mooring at Swifts Neck in Wareham. A three hour tour. Fellow boaters know the work involved leading up to this day. The scraping, the painting, the cleaning, the primping, the lavishing of love. I won’t boor you with the gruesome details. Let’s just say that two days ago, after many hours of work, many sore muscles, a few skinned knuckles, and a twisted up knee, I proclaimed the old Trojan F32 “seaworthy,“ and had the marina launch her.
“Breakfast?” My wife asked, pouring herself a mug of coffee.
“Yes please,” I answered.
“Okay,” I said with a smile way too big for toast. On this morning everything’s okay. All’s right with the world, because finally, after a long, cold winter, there’s once again, boating. I fired up the Lehman 120 diesels and let them settle into a nice 800 RPM rumble while Susan handled the dock-lines. After switching the radio to channel 13, I hailed the only obstacle in our way.
“New Bedford bridge, New Bedford bridge. Motor vessel Ginger Lee, over.”
“Go ahead Ginger Lee.”
“Good morning sir. What time will you open? Over.”
“Nine o’clock Captain. Line up on the west passage.”
“Good copy. Ginger Lee out.”
After checking my watch, I realized we have only twelve minutes to make the bridge opening. “It’s going to be close,” I muttered to myself. Sticking my head out the open side window, I alerted the Executive Officer. “Honey, the bridge opens at nine, we gotta go.” The XO quickly un-cleats the lines, tosses them on the deck, and after a final push-off, deftly scrambles on board. She has the fenders stowed in their holders and the dock-lines neatly coiled before we reached the old swing bridge.
I love New Bedford Harbor. Years ago, while living on my boat here, I got to know it fairly well. Cruising through it always makes my old heart sing. It’s so “New England.” The real deal. I urge you to cruise here. Take your dinghy through the working docks, where hundreds of fishing vessels are tied to each other. Some ancient, some new, some half sunk, some abandoned. It’s incredible, and totally free of charge. Tie your dinghy up to the public wharf and venture into a real New England working waterfront scene. Don’t forget to visit the Whaling Museum.
On the Fairhaven side of the harbor, explore the docks where they haul out and service large fishing boats. Walk the amazing Hurricane Barrier, completed in 1966 after the hurricanes of 1938 and 1954 destroyed most of the fishing fleet. Check out Fort Phoenix; it’s been guarding the harbor since 1775. With the hurricane barrier at our stern, we followed the channel to nun 4, made a left and set a straight line course to the Bird Island Light, the unofficial entrance to the Wareham River and our home port of Swifts Neck.
The winds were light, seas less than one foot, visibility unlimited. The Sun greeted the ocean and sparkled like diamonds off its ripples. There’s not a cloud in the sky. Ginger Lee’s engines thrummed steadily in unison, seemingly happy to be transporting us after their long Winter hibernation. They vibrated reassuringly beneath our feet, like a living, breathing thing. I felt their heartbeat, know that they are healthy, and it pleases me.